If you still have any doubts about how refreshing and modern Cantonese/Chinese pop can be, then this is the album you simply MUST hear. Although I suppose it should be considering a mini-album, since it consists of six songs, three remixes and a Mandarin version of one of the songs. But that's beside the point, which is that this is one of the most exquisitely-produced, cutting edge releases I've heard in years. All of the songs have layers and layers of sounds; it's like Girls Aloud meets Garbage -- and those are not names I throw around lightly, being that they're personal favorites of mine.
The scene is perfectly set by opener " 話愛就愛" (Google translation: "Words Love Love"), which begins with faint but grandiose strings that grow more and more intense by the second until they finally peak and, following a moment of suspenseful silence, the first of many pounding beats strikes you like a punch in the chest. The tempo is slightly R&B but the song overall is unapologetic, sultry electro-pop complete with moments of heavy-breathing. But it's the perfectly layered vocals, glammy stomp and blinged-up disco sheen that will have your head spinning and incite you to dance. And, with its occasional dose of marching drum beats, it would be perfect for an ambitious squad of cheerleaders. Then again, track two, "Be My Love," almost sounds like it was tailor made for cheerleaders with its thick and hypnotic beats and loud, enthusiastic clapper. As the song progresses, the shimmering beats become more and more complicated -- in the best way possible -- as they're stacked one on top of the other, drawing listeners deeper and deeper into its blissful pop spell. Among the song's many electro-flourishes, there are moments that sound like something you'd hear when your character fell off a cliff to his death in a 1980s arcade game, helping to give the song an intense, jolting vibe.
If there's one song on this release that I'd call the best it would have to be the title track, "超女時代," which translates to "Super Girls Era" or "Era Of Super Girls." It begins with the girls delivering a spoken-word manifesto over some menacing sounds, reminding me slightly of Motley Crue's "In The Beginning." "We are the diva of justice nations. Don't try to push your luck too far and don't you dare to think we're just like the others." The bit ends with, "OK, boys, sit down and let me tell you who we really are." If "The Boys" is Girls' Generation's theme song, then "超女時代" must be Super Girls' and if I had to decide between them then I do believe I'd have to go with Super Girls. You can't beat them -- this anthem is an ultra-strong, unstoppable force. One of the most fascinating things about it is how most of its beats sound like dubstep, but it's as though dubstep has been deconstructed and rebuilt for the world of pop. There's plenty of "wub" but never one after the other, as is the dubstep standard. About two-thirds into the song they revert to English for a hip-hop verse. "The D.I.V.A., love and peace protector, the D.I.V.A., we love to be your answer." But my favorite bit is when they loudly announce, "don't cry momma, he doesn't really matter." It's as though they're saying he's just a toy, I'll throw him out later, and it fits perfectly with the song's theme of self-empowerment or female-empowerment.
Not all of Super Girls' songs are loud and majestic pop gems. The mini-album features a pair of gorgeous, warm ballads, during which they blend the best elements of pop ballads with the best elements of R&B ballads. "愛情潛水" (Google: "Love Diving") begins with the girls singing to piano accompaniment before its lovely, R&B beat begins, establishing the song's blissful, serene mood. The girls' voices sound especially beautiful here and their harmonizing during the chorus is entirely gorgeous. Somehow it all sounds lovelorn without getting sentimental to a point that would make one gag. "Be Strong" starts off with keyboards and a clapper before a punchy, R&B beat joins the mix and the girls begin singing. But the song shifts into sugary pop mode for the uplifting chorus. Even though the words "be strong" are the only words in English, you can't help but find some sort of comfort or inspiration from this truly moving chorus.
While all three of the mini-album's remixes are clever, alternate takes on the songs, the most noteworthy is clearly the remix of the title track. It begins with the manifesto of the original version, spoken along to what sounds like loud, live percussion. As it goes on, dizzying synth and all sorts of intricate little electro flourishes render it slightly puzzling but seductive listening. It's super catchy to the point that you can't help but try to wrap your head around it even if it initially sounds like there's too many things going on. Is it better than the original version? I would definitely have to say no. But it's a rich take on the song that rewards repeated listens with its complexity. I also have to give praise to the remix of "放過我吧" (Google: "Let Me"). The original version of the song is wonderful, but this version is somehow even better. "Say you love me," loops over and over on top of various electro blips and blurbs as it begins. Then the funky, thick beats and bass begin and it sticks its claws in you. It's the intense strings, which sound like they could be used for horror movie score, that really get inside of you though. They're eerie and certainly attention-grabbing. This mix of emotive strings and electropop beats reminds me of many a Mylene Farmer remix, Mylene being a French pop diva who is one of my top 10 favorite artists on the planet.
超女时代 is a sparkling, decadent debut and the landscapes of their songs are the stuff pop dreams are made of, making this a must-have. -Michael McCarthy
I couldn't find any of their actual videos on Youtube but there are plenty of videos of them cutely talking in Cantonese that you might be interested in. I've provided a link to one of them below.